It’s a Sad State….

Kelli and I were out and about one day.  We stopped to pick up a few groceries.  I was shocked when I saw this….

WHAT??  How could milk be so cheap?

I thought it was a misprint but saw that skim milk was even cheaper.

I thought it was just a gimmick to get people in the store..some HUGE price cut.  It wasn’t though.  Even the chocolate milk was dirt cheap.For a fraction of a second I thought cool!!  That’s awesome milk is so cheap.  Then I looked up and saw Kelli.  In a FASTER second I wanted to cry.

Kelli and her husband Jason are dairy farmers.  Jason, along with his family, milk 300-ish cows.  They can’t make a living with prices so low.  These are just some rough, figures…for a farmer, the cows can average just under 80 pounds of milk a day.  A gallon of milk weighs 8.5 (ish) pounds.  So VERY rough figuring says a cow gives 8-9-ish gallons of milk a day.

Milk prices for farmers have been dropping and dropping.  $13 per 100 pounds of milk is the price projected to come.  That means a farmer will only be paid about $10.40 for each cow per day.  WHAT?

So with that money a farmer has to feed the cow, maintain the buildings, cover vet costs, breeding costs, the equipment costs and all the other costs….and then after all that, take care of his family.  It’s ridiculous.  Who can do that?

Growing up my dad milked cows.  I remember he got $10-$12 per 100 of milk.   He could make a living on that THEN in the 70’s….now…NOT!

Kelli has a good friend Megan.  Her family milks cows. (The awesome cow pictures throughout this post are hers-thanks!)

Their family is trying so hard to keep their cows but Megan admits it daily gets harder.  She recently wrote this:
This morning as I was milking I noticed the light seeping through the stanchions. And I thought thank God for the light.

Farming makes people strong. Farmers have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. But they continue on because it’s built them to be strong. It’s not that we’ve never feared anything, it’s that we’ve never let fear stop us. Trust me when I say there are days that test the Jesus in you when farming.

However we are perhaps days away from an empty barn. Today we had a barn full of cows. But in our near future we may have empty stanchions where 4 feet once stood. We may have empty pastures where our passions grazed peacefully for years. We may have empty free stalls that for years on end were full of straw and warm beds for our girls. We may have springs without newborn calves dancing around their mothers. We may never again be calmed by the sound of a milk pump hum. What frightens me the most is what our hearts will lose. We’ve lost money, we can deal, but losing our girls? I’m not sure how to fathom that.

My entire family works off the farm to keep the farm. We work hours on end without it providing a paycheck to spend. Some people will never understand how you can physically work so hard for something that doesn’t fill your bank account. But you know what it does fill? It fills our souls. Some people will go their entire lives without feeling how full our hearts are because of these animals.

I don’t want you to sympathize for me, I ask that you pray for our entire industry. I know that elsewhere tonight someone else’s supper table also ate silently for the fear of what’s to come. I know it isn’t just us that has a hard time swallowing these industry issues.

So thank a farmer, and please pray for him too.

Megan says this all so perfectly.

This makes me so sad…The hardest part, I don’t know what to do that can help.  Somehow, someway, the price of milk HAS to increase.  Dairy farmers cannot keep working at a loss.

For people who have farming born and breed into them this is a sad, sad time.  In our area there are still quite a few dairy farmers.  So many of them are family run with parents and grown children working to make them operate.  I can’t imagine them not being able to keep this lifestyle.

I know many of you who read the blog aren’t farmers.  If you aren’t, it’s hard to know what is going on.  You might be like I was for a second there in the grocery store, happy about the cheap milk price…but if you know the real story, you like me might be willing to go back to paying the $4.25 a gallon to keep the dairy farmers on the farm.

…..and just as I turned the corner feeling terrible about the dairy farmers, I saw this.
 78 cents for 18 eggs….With prices like that, it’s not good for the poultry farmers either.

It is a sad day.

48 thoughts on “It’s a Sad State….”

  1. Yep.

    Here in Australia our two biggest supermarkets have gone into battle with cheap milk. It’s been like it for a few years now, and dairy farms have been decimated. Blind freddy could have seen it coming. You do what you can to buy the farmer one, but half the time you don’t even know which one is a farmer one, and which farmer has been ripped off by the supermarkets. Now most people have forgotten what milk used to cost, so of course they’re going to buy the cheaper one. Of course the discount doesn’t come from the bottom line of the supermarkets, it gets passed on to dairy farmer so they have to make more with less money.

    They haven’t started on eggs yet, but it’ll come – I’m sure.

    Supersad, and super depressing. And I don’t know the answer.

  2. oh my goodness, 2-3 months ago it was $5 a gallon where my daughter lives in the lower 48. What happened? When did it drop? And why? And eggs, I can’t remember them being that low in recent memory.

  3. Hi,
    I echo Suzie’s comments. Cheaper is not always better, as someone is paying a price for the benefit of the consumer. It’s not limited to primary production either. Think about who is paying the price for the T-Shirt you may have bought for $3-00. By the time you take into account the cost of materials, transport, distribution, storage, marketing, and wages of sales staff, it is certainly not the machinist who sewed that item who receives fair payment. We seem to accept that others in another country can be treated this way but think it is unfair when we are treated that way. Everyone deserves to be paid fairly for their time and expertise.

  4. I grew up on a dairy farm-started working it age 10. I remember the good years vs the bad years. I marvel that farmers sleep at night and make it through these bad times. These milk prices are horrible. My brother runs 1800 through the parlor!

  5. Just this month Deans informed dairy farmers in our area that they will not be accepting their milk after 90 days. They need to find a new market. The coops aren’t accepting new milk now. Wal Mart built a new processing plant in Indiana but they’re not accepting local milk. My husband wants to keep going 2 more years. We are very thankful none of our children came into the farm. We would hate to burden them with the state of the dairy industry today.

  6. Milk and eggs can often be used as loss leaders to just get people in the stores. Milk here runs around $2 all the time. Kroger sells for much less again to get people in the stores. Eggs were found one place for 49 cents but I get much higher quality and even these were less. Would prefer to get the eggs from the egg farmer directly but hard to find here in the big city.

    Both are also seasonal. It is Easter time so eggs are super cheap. I am sad that so many are wasted in the decoration activity but it is what it is.

    PS: at a quilt retreat I met a dairy farmer’s wife and they have added robotics to their whole dairy operation. The cows milk themselves when they want. Hugely expensive but they now dont have to have a crew milk the cows 3 times a day.

  7. Had to add that in Indiana we have a dairy farm that milks 30,000 cows. Fair Oaks. Unfortunately we are known for huge factory farms. I have seen factory farms with cows, pigs, turkeys, ducks, chickens……. These are not “family” farms but huge corporate activities.

  8. Like everything else, big corporations have taken over everything. The days of “Mom & Pop” businesses are coming to an end. So sad to see.

  9. Add my voice to the sadness expressed here. I was raised on a small farm where my mother ran the farm and my father worked in a factory on shift work. It was during the 60’s when the workers were on strike 6 months at a time for safer work conditions and better wages and health insurance. The months when the men were on strike were hungry months. Oatmeal for breakfast, fried potatoes for supper, but always with glasses of milk and eggs from the farm. We ate meat when the company and the workers settled for another year’s contract. It seemed like milk prices always went wildly up and down during those years and the worrying could kill a person but we survived. I understand there are complex issues in the marketplace but too many people climb up on the backs of farmers and expect a free ride. Those of you who still farm will understand what I just said.

  10. Prices are not like that everywhere. I still pay $5-6/gallon for milk at the grocery stores and $2/dz for eggs in the northeast unless I go to the wholesale clubs where it’s $3.98/gallon.

  11. City girl here, but love my milk and dairy products. Wish there was something I could do to help. I’m a lifelong milk drinker (never coffee or tea) but I doubt I can drink enough to help.

  12. When I was growing up we had farms all around. Now most of the farms are gone, replaced by condominiums and McMansions, or, even worse, huge warehouses.

    As others mentioned, industrial farms are killing off the family farms. They are soulless conglomerates that don’t care about their workers or their animals.

    We need to get back to our roots as a nation……but I don’t know if that can ever happen…..too much greed, too much arm’s length management and not enough compassion.

    We still have a family farm in my hometown. They have a farm share program that we have participated in for several years. The vegetables that we get for 20 weeks beginning in May are the best that I have ever tasted.

    If there was more that we could do to support our local farmers I would do so in a heartbeat.

  13. It’s five years this month since we sold our cows and I still miss them and the routine. Now we do corn and small grains and barely getting by.

  14. In Wisconsin family farms are disappearing but some small farmers are coming up with ways to stay viable. We buy our eggs when we can from local friends for $2 a dozen, we support the small cheese factories(there is a reason they win ribbons for their cheese!) and buy other products made by local farmers. My grandparents sold their farm in 1971 and the barn is gone and the land has not been plowed under for a subdivision yet. It is changing-some farms have gone organic, use their milk to make ice cream, cheese and yogurt that is sold on the farm. Farming has always been for the dedicated few families that truly care about what goes on the table. The big corporate farms are accepted in many places but the products they produce……ah well, off my horse and to the sewing room.

  15. Wow!! I live in fort Lauderdale Florida,we are still paying around 3.60. And up and eggs 2.69 and up ,for regular if organic double that price. We can’t loose our farmers, such dedicated Americans!! Surprised to read in one of the comments here that walmart was not accepting local farmers milk !! What’s that l about. Now that needs to be news worthy.

  16. We live on my home farm. I grew up with dairy cows here. My husband and I had dairy cows here for 28 years. We both worked off farm the last three years of having them but finally sold out. The barn needed a new roof and new stalls, the machinery was old and needed to be replaced and nothing was getting the kind of attention needed so we finally sold those girls. Farming has changed so radically n my lifetime. It used to be a way of life in this area now there are a few large corporate dairies and its just another business.

  17. We have a farmer in our area, who processes his own milk, butter abd cream. It is pasteurized. Sell for 4.00 + a gallon. People stand in line to buy it. Farmers may have to band together. Shame on Walmart for not buying local milk.

  18. I understand exactly what you are talking about. I live in Texas and we had definite economic repercussions when the price of gas was so cheap a few years ago. It affects so much. You could drive by fields where they were storing offshore oil rig equipment. In over 10 years here I had never seen that. When workers can’t work or earn money, they can’t spend it either. I hope things change for your area! Thanks for sharing this information.

  19. Kathleen Schwitzner

    I work for a company that basically is owned by our state farm bureau. I was a city girl when I moved here 11 years ago. My eyes have been opened in those 11 years. NEVER EVER underestimate a farmer. I gladly pay higher prices to keep farmers, especially those I know by name, in business, because if they are in business, I too have a job.

    No one believes that agribusiness is the biggest industry in Illinois. Trust me it is.

  20. Here in California the gallon regular milk is $2.98.
    I normally buy Straus Organic milk in the glass bottle 1/2 gallon right now on sale for $4.99.
    Most organic eggs are between $ 3.99 and $6.50.

    Change and happens in small places. Not everything that looks good from afar will be like that after closer inspection.

  21. Go organic. Seriously. Use the farmer grit inside of you to make it happen. I have antibiotic allergies. I discovered I can drink organic. I have been growing as much as I can, and now I buy organic as much as I can. I’m not rich. But I will pay extra for my family. I’m not the only one.

  22. I think it’s every part of farming now days. Some states have laws to keep out the factory farms.

    Look at the prices of grain crops vs. Machinery.

    The poor prices are across everything the farmer does.

  23. What makes my blood boil is when I read that the CEO of Duke Energy makes $21 million per year. Nobody deserves to make $21 million a year. And no one needs to make $21 million a year unless you are using that money to support many families and businesses. If s/he’s making that much, the customers are paying way too high a price for their utilities, something many people can’t afford. The amount of time, energy, experience, knowledge, and expense it takes to run a dairy farm is mind boggling. It’s not logical that they get so little for the effort.

  24. It is a sad day indeed. My parents grew up on dairy farms in Iowa and l raised beef cattle all the years I lived on the farm in Minnesota. Its a lot of hard work. As a consumer I would gladly pay more for dairy, eggs and meat grown and produced in the USA.

  25. At the WM here milk is 98cents a gal. The eggs at Christmas were 38 cents a dozen for large. The farmers can’t survive. We milk 32 head and it became more expensive to feed them per 100 for what we were getting we sold the herd. The Government is talking about surplus cheese again. Deregulating doesn’t always work.

  26. We are still paying $5 a gallon here in Florida and my eggs are very pricey I don’t know what’s going on there I’m really really curious how come it’s so cheap there what do you think is happening cuz it’s not cheap here
    I was reading some of the comments that said it’s the time of year or maybe they’re loss leaders to get people in the really interested to know
    But as a small business person my husband and I are soon going out of business we have an automotive shop and we can’t afford the overhead anymore we have to pay to have a higher use oil taken out of here other companies are getting paid for their used oil but because we’re a small business and we don’t have enough fun of it they will pay us so this is how come we can’t make it as a small business 34 years and we have to shut our doors

  27. I agree with all of the above. I’m going to try to find local farms and dairy in my area and try to buy direct. My heart hurts for all of the farmers caught in this greedy system!

  28. Dairy product prices in our local store aren’t nearly that low. So it must be the middle men making the money. My husband worked for many, many years at the Orchard Cheese Factory. To start with it was locally owned, then forced to sell out to Mid-America Dairymen, who sold out to Leprino Foods who closed the plant and sold the property to IMAC. From there my husband went to work in a Leprino Foods plant in Hartington, 80 miles away. That lasted for seven years until Leprino moved the whole operation to California and closed the Hartington plant. For the first time in his life my husband was unemployed. Not easy to find a job when you’re over 55, no college degree and your only experience is farm work and cheese factory work. He wound up working a minimum wage, no benefit job for four years until the work environment got so hostile he quit. Then started working at IMAC until conditions there got to where he decided to retire. The dairy industry is a cut-throat business where those at the top make the money and the farmers, production workers and consumers all lose out.

  29. I grew up on a small island that was full of dairy farms and sadly the last dairy farm sold off their cows about 2 years ago. There are still farms there but only raising fruits and vegetables. Dairy farming is one of the hardest types of farming as it is 7 days a week at least twice a day. Now they are milking the cows more often on some farms. My parents never took a vacation until us kids were older and could help out with the milking and feeding the calves. It was just the way life was at the time but thinking back on it I know it was one of the best ways to grow up. We never felt like we didn’t have what we needed. I never did know how much my dad and grandfather were paid for the milk but we did have enough. It is sad to think that people can’t make a living anymore on their farms. Prices here have not been cut low like that and we have many people that want to buy food produced locally so that is a big thing. Hopefully it will help the local farmers here to stay in business.

  30. I buy eggs directly from the producer here and can’t wait for the chickens to start laying again. Her hens quit laying when it is so cold. I would LOVE to buy milk directly from the farmer, but that is not legal here because it is RAW and not processed. It is a sad state of affairs that farming has become a corporate business with very few family farms left. My heart hurts for farming families, I will be praying.

  31. Hi there, over here in Australia we have had $1 a litre milk through the big supermarkets (3.78 L to 1 gallon). Many people are now going back to buying milk from smaller processors which costs more but tastes better.
    Also we have had lots of imported cheese from the US (going to manufacturers) for I think $4.00 a kilogram.

  32. I live (lived?) in the middle of farm land near the Texas Coast. I see more and more of it nibbled up every day for subdivisions. It’s depressing.

  33. Bonnie Lippincott

    I live in California, born and raised here in Orange County. In the 1950’s I lived on a street with a dairy farm at the end. In the 1960’s my friend lived on a ranch and raised cows. Orange County was named for the oranges that grew everywhere! All of this is gone! Replaced by houses and shopping centers. The only orange trees I’ve seen are at Disneyland! They are an “attraction.” I know it’s “progress” but our food comes from the farmers and dairymen. “Agra-business” has taken over everything.

    I think that we need to make sure that the prices reflect the ability of these workers to live on and raise a family. I for one do not want to drink milk or eat meat from China.

    Thanks, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Please let us know if there is anything WE can do to help.

  34. I don’t know how prices are set or by whom, but I wish there was consistency. Here in Los Angeles I just paid $3.79 for a HALF GALLON of milk, and $2.49 for a dozen eggs.

  35. I was raised on a small dairy farm, I can remember my dad and grandparents working 20 hour days to put up silage and hay, we also helped, back breaking work stacking hay. I would love to be back on a farm, but to old now to do that kind of work, it is hard and you have to love it to do it. GOD Bless our farmers and keep them in business LORD.

  36. It’s sad. Creameries here in Wisconsin used to fight over farmers 10 years ago. Now the farmers are on pins & needles for fear of their creamery dropping them. If they are dropped it is very likely no other creamery will pick them up. We do everything we can to consume more dairy in our house. Milk with every meal, buy cheese in blocks & cut it up vs the Kraft singles that are mostly oil, yogurt & string cheese in lunches, use milk in recipes. When you go out for a meal, whether a nice restaurant or fast food, order milk. Your personal consumption helps but others may see your milk as they walk by & decide to order it with their meal. The price is usually similar to soda & it is so much healthier! We sold our cows almost 14 years ago & I can still walk through the barn & recite the names of the cows that last stood in those empty stalls.

  37. So sorry to hear this. Growing up in Iowa in farm country in the 50’s and 60’s was wonderful. Many days I remember how much I loved living there. Life evolved and I have spent 46 years living in the city of Pittsburgh. I have loved living here too but my heart belongs to the farming community in Iowa. My heart goes out to the farmers.

  38. Susan the Farm Quilter

    It is the same for the wheat farmers…break-even in our part of the country is about $6.00/bushel and current prices are less than $5.00. Other than the obvious loss to the farmers of their animals and farms, it ripples out to those who directly supply services and equipment to the farmers, those who make the equipment necessary for a farm, those who make the components of the equipment and those who mine/refine the metals to make the components. I can keep a few cows on my farm to give me the milk and meat I need, adding chickens and pigs would not be difficult, but I could only supply my family and a few who live near me. I have a large area to plant a garden to help with feeding us. But what happens to those who live in the city when all the family farms disappear? The corporate farms will be happy to raise the prices on milk, eggs, meat, wheat…they have the ability to take a huge loss for a while to lose the competition of the family farmers. Time to support your local farmers and buy directly from them as much as you are able! I know family budgets are stretched, but if we lose the family farms I’m afraid we will really learn what it is like to stretch the budget when it comes to the food we put on the table.

  39. I agree with Susan the Farm Quilter! I am happy to pay more to buy milk and eggs from local farms. It’s good quality, and the money goes to the people that produce it, not the big corporations. Our local supermarket stocks milk from local dairies. I can hardly wait for the farmer’s markets to open again. I can’t get milk there, but I can get eggs.

  40. I live in Massachusetts, and I think I’m paying $4 – $5 a gallon right now. I’m not sure, because I just load up the cart with as much milk as I need. It doesn’t really matter what it costs; I have to have my milk!

  41. We buy our milk direct from a local dairy at about 3 times that price, but it’s so much better and fresher than the store milk we figure it’s not expensive since we never have to toss it before we’ve consumed it. I am surprised at the prices you’re talking about since our cheese and ice cream prices have skyrocketed the last year or so. The eggs I’m less concerned about as up until Easter, the stores use those as a loss leader for everyone that wants Easter eggs. They go right back up the Wednesday after Easter around here. Normal egg prices are $2.50-$3 per dzn. (Agriculture is the #2 driver in our state economy.)

  42. We have milk and eggs at various prices in our local supermarket. There is milk for $.99 cents per gallon and also some for 3.99 per gallon and organic for around $5.00 per gallon. With some there is no way to know what the difference is between the cheap and the more expensive. As a consumer, I would like to know what the difference is. I do miss the days of the smaller farmers. Even 30 years ago, many farmers I knew had day jobs as well as the full time farming job.

  43. Carolyn Sullivan

    Our milk has been about $0.99/gal for a while now. Eggs anywhere from 0.78 to 0.44/doz. I’m on a fixed income. I would not be able to afford to buy at the prices you are talking about.
    Everything is going up, except my income! SS gave me a tiny raise, then charged me $40 more for medicare! I wish it was the 70’s again……

    I do hear you though and I understand that the prices will go up for us.

  44. Farmers in my area (Western NY and PA) are losing their milk markets at the end of May due to WM starting to process their own milk for ALL their stores in Indiana. They are doing this instead of purchasing from local farm cooperatives in the area for their stores.

    Here is the link to see where your milk is from: Each state is assigned a number, followed by a dash with the processing plant where it was bottled at.

    This is a way to assure that you are purchasing your milk/dairy products from local farmers.

    Always a Farmers Daughter

  45. To hell with praying… can we HELP? I paid 68 cents for a gallon of milk at Aldi. I AM willing to pay more…..But I don’t know where to shop that would directly benefit the farmers! I live in a rural area, but everything here is commercial corn and soybeans. Very little livestock. I buy local eggs….but don’t know a source for milk!

  46. I have to say that I pay $2 for a dozen eggs and just about $4 for a gallon of milk. Those prices are crazy! And scary! I am not complaining about what i pay. I would pay more to assure a good quality milk with no antibiotics,etc.
    So sad for your families.

  47. There is something we can all do–insist on local dairy! You’ll pay more if you go somewhere like Sprouts or Whole Foods, but they do supply local and/or organic options. If we all stop buying milk at places that only do the mega-sourcing, they will (eventually) change things up.

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